The primary purpose of the MOD’s UK training estate - which covers about 190,000 hectares of land - is to provide military training facilities that enable our Armed Forces to be ready for operations and deployments around the world.
The MOD has what’s called “a policy presumption in favour of public access whenever it is compatible with operational and military training uses, public safety, security, conservation and the interests of its tenants.” In more simple terms this means that the MOD encourages public access when it is appropriate and is responsible for making sure that the land is safe for the public, the military and others who use it.
The MOD is also responsible for the maintenance, preservation and conservation of the land allowing it to offer much needed habitats for a variety of flora and fauna to thrive and for the enjoyment of the public now and in future generations.
Safety on the MOD training estate is vitally important and we work hard to balance the needs of the military ,who use it for training activities and the needs of the public, who use it for recreation. The estate includes some of the most dramatic scenery and beautiful countryside in the UK and every year large numbers of people enjoy access to it legally and safely. But unfortunately not everyone sticks to the rules, with some people endangering themselves and the lives of others.
Enjoy the training estate... but stay safe
We want people to enjoy the military training estate, but it can be a dangerous place if you don't follow the rules. There are several, simple ways you can make sure you don’t put your life at risk.
1. Leave military debris alone
We know that pieces of twisted metal sticking up from the soil look interesting. They might even be the remains of some munitions which might seem cool...until they blow up in your hands!
When you’re out and about on a military training area, don’t pick anything up. Although we do our best to clear up ordnance, some does get missed and it can be dangerous. Don’t touch anything and keep a close eye on children and pets.
2. Drive on Public Rights of Way or Permissive Rights of Way that are open to the public
You might think your big 4x4 can handle whatever our terrain can throw at it, but some of these tracks are used by armoured and tracked vehicles. Just because a Warrior or Scimitar can get round doesn't mean your car can.
Driving dangerously is an invitation to disaster anywhere, but it could be even worse on the training estate. Many roads on MOD land are uneven and you never know what’s around the corner – you might crash into a troop of soldiers or even a tank. And trust us, the tank will win.
Plenty of people driving on MOD land do so safely and in accordance with the laws. Those who don’t are taking their lives in their hands. If you’re driving on the military training estate, stick to Public Rights of Way or Permissive Rights of Way that are open to the public and drive sensibly and carefully.
3. Pay attention to the red flags
Don’t be like the group of teenagers who ignored the red flags and rode their quad bikes onto the training estate, popping up just behind the targets as a group of soldiers was about to start firing at them.
Red flags or lights signal that the land is being used for life threatening activities and that public access is completely prohibited. Armoured vehicles, bullets, pyrotechnics and fast-moving vehicles are all a threat.
Training Estate Public Safety Programme
Over the past few years there has been an increase in the levels of public trespass, incursions and near miss incursions on the UK training estate. Between April 2018 and March 2019 there were over 55,000 reported incidents of illegal access and anti-social behavior on the MOD training estate. These instances of illegal access and anti-social behavior not only interrupt vital military training, they also cost the MOD time and money to rectify, this is time, money and effort that could be better spent elsewhere.
The Training Estate Public Safety (TEPS) programme was set up in 2017 to improve public safety and to reduce the risks. To date the programme has successfully implemented a number of measures such as:
- Additional staff and Ministry of Defence Police personnel have been recruited to marshal the estate.
- New, more prominent training safety vehicles have been introduced to monitor the estate.
- Staff have been trained to better manage and de-escalate confrontation.
- Body worn cameras have been issued to staff working on the ground.
As part of the TEPS programme we’re also working on some supporting initiatives to showcase the wealth of recreational opportunities that are available to everyone and remind people about the risks and what to look out for when visiting the estate. These include using social media to remind visitors of access times and collaborating with some of our partners to highlight some of the great walks on and around the MOD estate.
Remember to read our online firing times before you plan any visit to the estate. And, if you want to see some great videos and images of the training estate in use, get news and updates on the opportunities there are to explore and get advice on what to remember when you visit, then follow us on Twitter: @mod_dio.